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Millions of dollars of federal grant money might not be enough to fund a commuter road project in Big Sky.

The Gallatin County Commission met Tuesday to discuss financial options for the federal TIGER Grant money. The $10.2 million grant was intended to be used for upgrades to Lone Mountain Trail, also known as state Highway 64.

Not all of the money is going to construction. Just over $4 million is dedicated to engineering and design. And included in that amount is money for public transit, with the purchase of vans and buses.

Improvements to the roadway include seven turn lanes along the corridor, a turn signal at the intersection of Little Coyote and Lone Mountain Trail and other upgrades.

Developer Lone Mountain Land Company took over construction of one of the turn lanes, which enters onto Powder Light Road, in order to complete development of the company’s workforce housing project.

The county received the money from the Federal Highway Administration in 2019. Since then, getting any momentum on the project to improve Lone Mountain Trail, Big Sky’s main roadway, has been a slow process.

A contributing factor to the snail’s pace of the project is the bidding process.

The county has either received construction bids that were way over the $6 million construction budget allotted by the grant money or none at all.

Two new bids for the project — one from Treasure State Inc. and one from Riverside Contracting — were received and opened at the Gallatin County Commission meeting last Tuesday.

Treasure State Inc. put in a bid for $11.19 million and Riverside Contracting’s bid was for $8.8 million, both higher than the $6 million set aside for construction from the federal grant.

Those bids both leave a multimillion dollar gap in money for the project. There are four contributors involved in the project that could make up that financial hole: the Montana Department of Transportation, the Big Sky Area Resort District and Madison and Gallatin counties.

Jamie Grabinski, the lead grants coordinator for Gallatin County, said the discussion Tuesday surrounded how much money MDT is willing to contribute. She said that the state agency considered contributing $1.4 million to help make up the shortfall.

But the discussion has been vague, leaving the county to try and pin down exactly what MDT’s contribution will be, Grabinski said.

The county commissioners were also unsure how much the state agency would contribute.

“We don’t know if they intend to leave us with a specific amount,” said Gallatin County Commissioner Scott MacFarlane.

If the state agency were to contribute $1.4 million, the other contributors could have to shell in the same amount. However, if MDT were to contribute more than $1.4 million, Gallatin County and its partners could add in either $573,000 or $333,333 per contributor.

Those contributions also depend on which bid the county chooses to accept, too.

To complicate the issue further, the county has 90 days to choose a construction bid. Before that window closes, the county and its team of contributors also need to shore up the financial gap.

“We need to probably nail this down within the next week,” Grabinksi said.

The county will have a public meeting on Monday to discuss and make a decision on the project and the funding shortfall.

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Alex Miller is the county and state government reporter and can be reached at or by phone at 406-582-2648.

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